'He was like a character from an old adventure novel': The story of Algonquin Park's last fishing guide
The Last Guide' is a portrait of a man who dedicated his life to the outdoors
Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most iconic and breathtaking landscapes in Canada. Visitors marvel at its natural beauty: trees as far as you can see, fabulous fall colours, the call of the loon as early morning mist rises off the lakes. What might go unnoticed, however, is the people who have shaped and influenced the park's identity.
If you've spent enough time in Algonquin Park, chances are you've heard the name Frank Kuiack — maybe more than once.
If you were lucky enough to cross paths with Frank while he was still roaming the park, you might have learned a thing or two about fishing. Or perhaps he pointed out a hidden trail or taught you how to make wintergreen tea.
Frank was born in the 1930s, just outside Algonquin Park. He began guiding fishermen around the area when he was eight years old and never stopped — until the day he was no longer able to get into a canoe. Over time, Frank's talent for catching fish became something of a legend; people travelled from all around the world just to have him lead them through the park and enjoy one of his famous shore lunches – featuring fish caught that very morning.
Frank was like a character from an old adventure novel who discovered hidden lakes, built portage trails and secret campsites and planted canoes all over Algonquin. Many of the trails he originally cut have become permanent fixtures throughout the park.
According to Frank, the park used to have 140 traditional fishing guides. But ever since the turn of this century, he's been the lone survivor. He was the last guide left and he took great pride knowing that he carried the wisdom of traditional fishing and hunting practices, and an unrivalled understanding of Algonquin's diverse ecosystems. He saw it as a great responsibility: Frank made it his mission on earth to pass his knowledge on to anyone willing to listen.
Frank passed away in 2021. Today, his steel line fishing rod and oil-stained pack are displayed in the Algonquin Visitor Centre, alongside his hatchet. As much as Frank was invested in Algonquin Park and sharing its many wonders, his contributions to the park are also part of what make Algonquin special.
Until his final days, Frank would still pull his canoe out onto the water, cast his line, and smile like an 8 year old who just caught his first fish.
Aidan Cheeatow, Executive Producer, The Last Guide